Dietitians begin research into the link between poor nutrition and post-stroke falls

8 July 2020

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From left: UEA registered dietitian & Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology Professor Ailsa Welch, UEA research physiotherapist Dr Kath Mares, NNUH stroke consultant Dr Kneale Metcalf, UEA research dietitian Dr Lee Hooper, NNUH dietitians Emma Lines, Kris

A research study has been launched by dietitians at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and University of East Anglia that aims to help reduce the number of falls for patients recovering from a stroke.

The NNUH Research Capability Fund (RCF) has awarded £12,500 for a year-long project set up by dietitian Eliza Tassone to examine whether patients who suffer a stroke are more likely to have a subsequent fall when their nutritional status is poor.

Eliza, who is part of the neurosciences team at NNUH, said: ““I’m really passionate about improving and advocating for the nutrition of our patients and getting funded to do research alongside my clinical work is a real privilege. I really hope this leads to improved outcomes for our stroke patients. Nutrition is still a relatively young field and in neurology we don’t have a great deal of nutritional guidelines, so it’s exciting to be able to contribute to the evidence base.”

“If we find out that poor nutritional status is associated with falls and fractures post-stroke, we’ll be able to provide patients with more targeted nutritional interventions and information to potentially reduce the incidence, preventing further hospital admissions and costs to the NHS.”

In the UK, more than 100,000 people experience a stroke every year, with falls one of the most common complications afterwards.
Eliza is working with Dietitians Kris Howell, Emma Lines, Amanda Branford and Rachael Checkland, and stroke consultant Dr Kneale Metcalf, as well as UEA researchers, Physiotherapist Dr Kath Mares and Dietitians Dr Lee Hooper and Prof Ailsa Welch.

She added: “We know that falling once is a strong predictor of falling again after a stroke and that people who have experienced a fall post-stroke are at risk of developing a fear of falling and becoming socially withdrawn.”

“We’ll begin the project by looking at the data of all the people admitted here who suffered a stroke over the last 10 years to see if there’s an association between their nutritional blood tests results and being re-admitted for a fall and/or fracture.”

“We’ll then conduct a systematic review to see if previous research studies have found an association between the nutritional status of stroke patients and subsequent falls and/or fractures. The aim is to use the results of these projects, and evidence from existing literature, to apply for a larger grant to the National Institute for Health Research for a multi-factorial intervention aimed at preventing falls and fractures post-stroke in the Eastern region.”

Prof Ailsa Welch, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said “I’m so pleased to be collaborating with my NNUH and UEA colleagues on this important project, and contributing my research experience in nutrition, stroke and fracture risk.”

The NNUH Research Capability Fund is awarded to projects that meet the Trust’s new research strategy to help embed a culture of research that is recognised nationally and internationally, which inspires future leaders of clinical research.